Cigar lights up $300,000 Gulfstream race With win streak on line, Horse of Year carries 128

February 09, 1996|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

Cigar's 1995 journey will end tonight in San Diego when he is acclaimed with the Eclipse Award as Horse of the Year.

Tomorrow, Allen Paulson's brilliant thoroughbred launches an uncertain course for the present year in the Grade I, $300,000 Donn Handicap at Florida's Gulfstream Park.

Cigar risks his 12-race win streak while carrying a career-high 128 pounds and starting from the inside post in the 1 1/8 -mile Donn.

He is a 3-5 early-line favorite to pull within three of Citation's all-time record of 16 straight victories despite conceding from 11-18 pounds to seven challengers. Among the opposition is Heavenly Prize, the first female Cigar has ever faced.

After the Donn, the itinerary for the Maryland-bred champion becomes cloudy, however. Paulson has changed direction several times about the major coming targets for Cigar, but most recently said he probably would try both the MGM Grand Classic Crown in California and the Dubai World Cup in Saudi Arabia.

The addition of a $2 million bonus to the California series that includes the Santa Anita Handicap, Hollywood Gold Cup and the Pacific Classic persuaded Paulson after he had made it clear: no bonus, no California.

Previously, he had been leaning toward the Dubai, the world's richest race, a $4 million international event for top older horses sponsored by the Emirates Racing Association.

A commitment to the Saudi Arabian race alone would have kept Cigar out of American action for several months.

"Hopefully, we can do both," Paulson told The Daily Racing Form. "But you only take them one at a time when you're in horse racing. If he proves himself this year like he did last year, I think he can do this whole series and still got to Dubai."

At the moment, Cigar will go to California following the Donn and run in the Santa Anita Handicap March 2.

If he remains in contention for the bonus by winning that race, Paulson and trainer Bill Mott must make a tough decision about whether to run for the $2.4 million first prize in Dubai on March 27.

If he loses, then Dubai's riches may seem all the more attractive.

Cigar's jockey, Jerry Bailey, said he knows that eventually he will be beaten if he keeps running against the best opposition.

"If it happens, it will not be because there is something wrong with him or that he will not be trying," Bailey said.

For now, Cigar must prove his 6-year-old campaign can be as lucrative -- or more so -- as last year when he won a single-season record $4,819,800.

If he sweeps in California and Dubai, he would earn $6.2 million in five months. But Paulson's approach is first things first, starting tomorrow.

Last time around

One of the most popular local runners, Doctor Ichabod, will compete for the final time today in the fifth race at Laurel, a $5,000 claimer.

His previously scheduled last appearance was snowed out last Saturday.

The 11-year-old roan gelding has 22 lifetime victories, 26 seconds and 17 thirds in 115 starts and he has earned $274,423. He is known for his late charges from far behind.

Owner Fred Greene Jr. is driving from Boca Raton, Fla., for the race and a special recognition of Doctor Ichabod during tomorrow's program.

SprintFest popular

The Winter SprintFest -- consisting of two Grade II handicaps -- has drawn 64 nominations.

Included are the Barbara Fritchie, for older fillies and mares, and the General George, for older colts and geldings. Both races carry $200,000 purses and are contested at seven furlongs.

Both races could draw some out-of-town headliners depending on the weight assignments issued Monday.

Local star Foxie G may face Sipohn and Score Quick from California in the male race and Cormorant's Flight could be seeing Chaposa Springs and Clever Act coming from Florida and Traverse City from New York.

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